Babarinsa: July 2012

Using Glasser’s Choice Theory® to Foster Creativity

Babarinsa, Grace O.

Author is a doctoral student in Teacher Education Department at the University of Texas in El Paso, Texas, USA.


[Excerpt only, original to be submitted to the International Journal of Choice Theory® and Reality Therapy]




Glasser’s Choice theory was reviewed and its implication on students, the teacher and the classroom was discussed. The goal was to use Glasser’s Choice Theory® to examine teachers' and learners' attitudes and classroom practice that are perceived to be of crucial influence in the enhancement of a beneficial learning environment in the classroom, one that fosters creativity. It concludes by suggesting that students will develop skills in creativity when they are given freedom of choice in their learning,




Many research papers such as (Sternberg & Lubert, 1996; Fleith, 2000; Driver, 2001; Sak, 2004) have linked fostering students’ creativity to a welcoming and conducive classroom environment but little attention has been given to how to actually enhance a conducive and welcoming learning environment. Understanding and adapting Glasser’s Choice Theory provides for teachers the necessary tools in creating and maintaining a favorable, advantageous and welcoming learning environment that will foster creativity.


The purpose of schooling is to educate students and to produce vibrant citizens (Glasser, 1969, Goodlad, 2007); therefore, Brandt and Tyler (2007) in accord with Goodlad, states that "school goals should include such aims as 'interpersonal relations' and 'autonomy,' as well as 'intellectual development' and 'basic skills' (p. 16)."


Sternberg and Lubart (2007) observed:

Schools vary in the extent to which they encourage students to excel. Some schools seem to want nothing more than for all their students to be at some average or "golden mean." Many schools, however, encourage excellence. Unfortunately, it is rare in our experience for the kind of excellence that is encouraged to be creative excellence. It may be excellence in grades, which generally does not require great creativity to attain; it may be excellence in sports or in extracurricular activities. There is nothing wrong with excellence of these kinds. Indeed, they are undoubtedly important in today’s world [but] seeking such excellences does not foster creativity - and may even interfere with it. (pp. 175)


Greene (2007) argues that, because of benchmarks and standardization, our students' art, imagination and creativity are limited. Classroom instruction has been aligned with the state mandated objectives as compared to the novel and unique objective in teaching and learning that yields creativity. Literature has often linked fostering creativity to a welcoming and conducive classroom. In this paper, I will establish the definition of creativity, and give an overview of Glasser’s Choice Theory and how it can be adapted to a better understanding on how to create a welcoming classroom that fosters creativity.


Focusing on Creativity


Creativity is the ability of individuals to construct ideas that are not only valuable but also novel [original] and fundamental in all of human activity (Sternberg & Lubart, 1996; Sternberg, 2001, 2003). Starko (2010) asserted that without creativity there shall be no advancement in science, literature and art (cited in Sak, 2004, p. 216). Creativity is evident in all that we see around us, from the cars we drive, airplanes we fly, clothes we wear, buildings we live in and offices, the food that we eat, the TV shows we watch and commercials, sports and games, and even the music we hear. These all are products of creativity.


Runco (2003) defines creativity as thinking or problem solving that involves the construction of new [personal] meaning, emphasizing 'self,' the 'individual.' He suggests that creativity is widely distributed because "every individual has the mental capacity to construct personal interpretations (p.319)." Therefore, creativity is not limited to the gifted children or the highly intelligent students but can be found in every child. A creative individual sees and does things in new ways (Sternberg & Lubart, 2007).


There are three levels at which creativity is imperative (Sternberg, 1999). Creativity is crucial at the individual level to solve real life situations. It is relevant at the societal level to pioneer the progress in science, mathematics, technology and beauty in arts (cited in Sak, 2004, p. 216). In addition, it is relevant at the global level "to build a more interactive world that fortifies human civilization " (Sak, 2004, p. 216). There is consensus, therefore, among researchers that schooling [education in the Glasser model] is important to develop students' creativity. Because teachers play a major role in this context, factors such as teacher attitude, instructional practice and classroom environment influence (either positively or negatively) the development of students’ creativity (Fleith, 2000; Driver, 2001; Sak, 2004).


Classroom Practice with Glasser’s Choice Theory


Glasser’s choice theory proposes that every individual is driven by five (5) psychological needs embedded in our genes: need for survival, need to belong, need for power, need to have fun and the need for freedom. All our lives, everything we do or say are driven by our obligation to satisfy those needs in order to match the pictures on our quality world. Students will not show interest in learning except in instances that what is being taught is important to them and helps them satisfy one or more of their basic needs . . . (Keefe & Jenkins, 2002).


[Explanation of application of needs to students' creativity available in the International Journal, Fall 2012 publication.]




Although educators have identified 'autonomy' as one of the educational goals of students, and many researchers have established the 'needs' to provide students choices, yet little attention has been paid to the use of 'needs' to foster creativity. If what is offered in school is not seen by students as related to one or more of their built-in needs, they will struggle against, and/or will withdraw from learning.


Crucial to the goal of choice theory is for individuals to accept personal responsibility for everything they do, and that the only person whose behavior they can change is their own. I, hereby, propose that it is time for teachers to note that students always have a choice about whether they will learn and none of us, teachers included, can coerce them to learn or care about what they are doing (Kohn, 1993).


It is the responsibility of teachers to help students express the creative ability in themselves by providing them freedom of choice and every necessary experience that will enable them to express themselves in a way that is positive and productive. In conclusion, teachers can create a conducive and favorable learning environment that will foster creativity by following Kohlberg’s (2007) suggestion on the use of moral education as a means of helping students become great minds and Glasser’s Choice Theory which offers a different way of understanding human (students’) needs, attitudes and behaviors.


[References may be found with the International Journal article.)